One More Reason To Start A Garden

Strawberries The Glycemic index is a useful tool for diabetics and us: those looking to control insulin levels throughout the day. The Index measures how much blood-sugar levels spike after you eat certain foods.

We've been talking  a lot about Paleo foods, and about eating Zone foods, but the two 'diets' aren't mutually exclusive.  To quote Greg Glassman, "There isn't a debate.  It's like asking, 'Should I wear tennis shoes, or a hat?'  Why don't you do both?"

Foods that fit the Paleo-eating template are also better suited to Zone eating, it turns out.  Vegetables cause less of a blood sugar spike than grains.  They're more slowly digested, so your pancreas doesn't overreact and gush insulin. has always kept a comprehensive lists, based on research, of the glycemic impact of different foods when eaten alone.  Combining foods helps, of course – that's why we balance carbohydrate, protein, and fat intake at every meal – but it doesn't totally negate the effect.  You can't cancel out the massive insulin spike you'll get from eating a bowl of white rice just by adding some milk.  Eating some cheese with your corn is still going to mean a blood-sugar crash a few hours later.

Kids in garden Mendosa also lists the Glycemic Loads for foods.  While the original Glycemic Index measures the quality of foods (how much they increase blood glucose,) Glycemic Load also considers the quantity of a typical serving.  Glycemic load is the GI value of the food, multiplied by a typical serving size,and divided by 100.  So, while long-grain rice can have a Glycemic Index value of  47, which isn't bad at all, most people eat at least a cup, which means that the total Glycemic Load of the meal (a 2.7, or very bad) is going to cause a huge insulin spike.

Compare to vegetables.  Green peas have a GI value of 39 (excellent,) and a Glycemic Load of 0.5 (also excellent.)  You can eat as many green peas as you like without worrying about a blood-sugar crash an hour later.

Download GI_GL_Carb_data

A few other examples:

Juices – cranberry juice is often touted for its antioxidant effects. But drink a glass alone, without a meal, and it's Bonk City.  Orange juice, though, is fine.

Apples? Great.  Dried apples?  Ridiculously calorie-dense, because people still eat the same volume, even though the water's taken away. 

Strawberry jam?  Not bad!  Strawberry fruit bars, a la 'Breakfast Bars?' – brutal.  Good luck staying awake if you have a long commute, especially when eaten on an empty stomach!

The best way to eat vegetables?  Fresh, uncooked, right from your own garden.  Kids turned loose in a vegetable garden will never ask to leave.  Gardening is also extremely cathartic, very good for improving creativity, and a great reward system.

Last year, we experimented at home with seeds from Veseys.  A Canadian company, Veseys takes guesswork out of the equation: buy from them, and they don't ship plants or seeds until they're ready for shipping.  It's top-quality stuff; even my unrefined farming skills produced enough peas, carrots, potatoes and the occasional strawberry for my kids all summer.  It's a bit of work (yikes!) but the luxury of walking across your lawn for fresh green peas, right out of the pod, is hard to match.  New strawberries every day? Decadence.

Can't grow it?  Buy it.  This is our local Food Network.  Get to a farmers' market.  Until they're open, though, start planting seeds.

1 thought on “One More Reason To Start A Garden”

  1. I don’t know about up there, but here in Wisconsin / Minnesota we have Community Support Agriculture (CSA) farms[1] in which you can buy a share and have locally grown goods ready for pick up (and sometimes delivered to your door) almost immediately after picking. Between our garden, our CSA and the local farmer’s market, we have awesome, fresh and local food from late spring through late fall.
    My daughter is already chafing at the bit to help mom plant the garden[2].
    [1] –
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